Friday, February 28, 2014

Love For the Father

Chuckle:  Adam said to his wife, "Eve, I wear the plants in this family!"
Quote:  "Love of God and love of created things are contrary the one to the other; two contraries cannot exist in one and the same person." --St John of the Cross, Ascent I
    "Stop loving this evil world and all that it offers you, for when you love the world, you show that you do not have the love of the Father in you(1 John 2:15 NLT).
Loving the things of our evil world is sometimes called worldliness.  When we think of worldliness, we tend to focus on behavior -- acting in a worldly or sinful way, as demonstrated by the people with whom we associate; the places we frequent; or activities we enjoy.  But loving the world begins as a condition of the heart, which manifests itself in three basic attractions: (1) lust for the gratification of our physical desires; (2) lust for what is appealing to the eye -- materialism; and (3) pride in one's importance or status.  It was in these same three areas that Satan tempted Adam and Eve in the garden; and he used the same tactics again when tempting Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11).
On the other hand, those who truly love God exhibit certain characteristics in their lives: they have unconditional love for others; they display a generous spirit; they are dedicated to humble service; they exercise self-control; and they continually seek to know God better each day through prayer and Bible study.  Their focus is on God and His kingdom.  God's values become their values.
The ways of the world are totally contrary to God and His ways, and each of us must decide daily whether to love the world or our heavenly Father.  We cannot love both -- we must choose one or the other.  Jesus said, "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money" (Matthew 6:24 NIV).
Sadly, some "Christians" try to impress others by visibly avoiding worldly attractions and pleasures while, at the same time, harboring worldly desires, attitudes, and values deep within their hearts.  We may be able to fool other people, but we can never fool our heavenly Father who knows everything about us, even the deepest and darkest secrets of our hearts.
So, it's obvious that God desires us to love Him, as revealed in the "Great Commandment -- "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Matthew 22:37 NIV).  If we faithfully obey this commandment, our desires and love for worldly attractions will fade into our distant memory.  Let's ask ourselves: what values are most important to me?  Do my actions reflect the world's values or God's values?  Do I love God or the world?  We cannot have it both ways!!

Love, Jerry & Dotse 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

What Influences You Most?

Chuckle:  The church custodian quit, and the pastor asked the organist if she would be able to clean the church.  The organist thought before replying, "Do you mean that I now have to mind my keys and pews?" 
Quote:  "Control your thoughts and desires; they may break into words and actions at any moment." --Unknown source  
    "But they delight in doing everything the Lord wants; day and night they think about his law" (Psalm 1:2 NLT).
Everything you watch, read, or listen to influences your life.  If you watch, read, or listen to wholesome materials, you will be influenced in a positive way.  Of course the opposite is true as well.  You may say: "I can watch trash on TV or read an off-color magazine or book without it affecting my thinking or the way I live."  Let me explain why I believe this attitude to be wrong for Christians. 
It's obvious that we have been influenced negatively by the things of the world if our actions become sinful.  However, it may not be so obvious if only our thoughts are influenced.  You can fool the people around you by playing the part of a faithful Christian while harboring sinful thoughts and desires.  Failing to act on those secret desires does not mean you aren't sinning against God.  Sins begin in our hearts and minds, but often don't remain there.  
Remember, "Men look on outward appearances, but God looks upon the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7; Luke 16:15).  "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he" (Proverbs 23:7 KJV).  "As water reflects a face, so a man's heart reflects the man" (Proverbs 27:19 NIV).  Jesus said, "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:28 NIV).
Our sinful thoughts may not result in outward rebellion against God, but they can keep us from doing anything worthwhile for Him.  If our minds dwell on ungodly things, we become apathetic toward God's work and disinterested in spiritual things.  Here's a quick way to evaluate your heart and mind.  Do you experience joy from studying God's Word and serving Him?  If something else gives you greater joy, you have been influenced by the world.  
Notice in our passage what makes devoted followers of God (Christ) happy -- the Word of God.  It occupies first place in their order of priorities.  They think about it day and night.  They fill their minds with the things important to God.  If you meditate on the Bible and absorb the godly principles that nourish your heart, mind, and spirit you will find fulfillment and happiness that only God can give.  You will not focus on temporal things that soon pass away, but upon the eternal that can never be taken from you. 

Love, Jerry & Dotse             

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Be Slow To Become Angry

Chuckle:  Anger Management: A husband asks his wife, "When I get mad at you, you never fight back. How do you control your anger"? "I clean the toilet bowl." "How does that help"? "I use your toothbrush."
Quote:  "When angry, count to ten before you speak; if very angry, count to one hundred." --Thomas Jefferson
    "My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires" (James 1:19-20 NIV).

We live in a time when a disagreement often becomes justification for personal abuse and sometimes even violence against the person or persons with whom we disagree.  The ability to have civil and courteous discussions of divergent points of view seems to have been lost by many of us.  It seems we have come to think a disagreement automatically means a fight.  Anytime two or more people interact there will be disagreements from time to time.
Courteous discussions of differing points of view, broaden our thinking on the issues and increase our appreciation and understanding of other people.  When we close our minds to points of view other than our own, we stop learning and our intolerance of other views continues to grow and, eventually our intolerance transfers from the issues to those expressing opposing views -- it becomes personal.  If not dealt with, our intolerance can fester within us and give way to full-blown hostility, anger, and rage.  Once this stage is reached, healthy communications with those who disagree with us will stop, leaving no basis, or will, to better understand one another.
If we allow our talking and listening to become out of proportion, our natural inclination is to become frustrated and angry with the other person.  In our passage, we are admonished to be quick to listen.  This means we accept everyone's right to speak and pay them respect by listening to them attentively.  It does not mean we should necessarily abandon our convictions and adopt theirs -- rather it means we recognize the right of others to have differing views.  When we listen with patience, attentiveness, and courtesy, our attitude will not be lost on the one who is speaking. It takes two angry people to have a fight.  As long as one person refuses to become angry, the possibility of mutual understanding increases -- and good will is fostered.
There is much said in Scripture about Christians controlling our anger.  We see from our passage that anger can become destructive and keep us from becoming the righteous persons God wants us to be.  I believe the first step in controlling our selfish anger is to pray for God's help.  Then, focus on seeing other people as God sees them -- as precious souls who need the same love and forgiveness that we have received.  Rather than becoming angry and bitter toward someone, try praying for that person.  You will find it very difficult, if not impossible, to remain angry with a person for whom you are sincerely praying.  Finally, you might try to better understand the person instead of becoming angry.  Once you understand his or her background and the challenges they face in life, you can better understand what makes them act the way they do. 
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, February 21, 2014

Be Quick to Listen

Chuckle:  "These days, I spend a lot of time thinking about the hereafter. I go somewhere to get something and then wonder what I'm here after."
Quote: “The beginning of wisdom is silence. The second step is listening.”  --Unknown source 
    "My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires" (James 1:19-20 NIV).
Although the two words are often used interchangeably, there is a great deal of difference between hearing and listening.  The dictionary defines hearing as "the act of receiving sound through the ears."  To listen is "to pay attention to someone in order to hear."  As I recall from my physiology classes, hearing is the involuntary function of turning sound waves into electrical impulses which are received and interpreted in our brains.  Briefly, here's how it works. 
Sound waves travel through the ear (auditory) canal and cause the eardrum to vibrate.  The vibrations are then transferred to the cochlea through a series of three small bones attached to the eardrum.  These tiny bones are called the incus, malleus, and stapes.  Because of their shapes, they are sometimes called hammer, anvil, and stirrup.  The cochlea turns the vibrations into electrical impulses which are transmitted to the brain via the auditory nerve.  The brain is trained to interpret these impulses.   Assuming healthy ears, hearing occurs whether we want it to or not and requires no effort from us.
Listening, on the other hand, implies intent -- to pay attention.  To listen, we intentionally focus our attention on the person speaking and make an effort not only to hear what he or she is saying, but to appreciate, and understand what is being said.  Listening requires effort and a genuine interest in the person who is speaking as well as his or her words. 
When we listen intently to a person, we are saying: "You are a person of value whom I love and respect and what you have to say is important to me."  Each of us receives great satisfaction from knowing we are speaking to someone who not only hears us but listens to us attentively.
Here is a good example of the difference between hearing and listening. It is the last play of the fourth quarter and your favorite team is lined up on the two yard line about to score the winning touchdown.  And at that precise instant, your wife calls out, "honey, would you please take out the garbage."  You will hear her words but they won't register because you aren't listening -- your attention is elsewhere.  Your lack of response can easily be interpreted that you are intentionally ignoring your wife and refusing to listen to her.  Not Good!!
Every person deserves to have us listen to him or her.  This is especially true among fellow believers.  As we are "quick to listen," our understanding of each other will deepen, our fellowship will become warmer, our appreciation for one another will increase, and our love for each other will grow. 

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Joy of a Different Kind

Chuckle:  Test question to a child: "What does the word 'benign' mean?" Answer: "It is what you will be after you be eight." 
Quote: “Cultivate more joy by arranging your life so that more joy will be likely.  --Georgia Witkin  
    "You (Lord) have given me greater joy than those who have abundant harvests of grain and wine.  I will lie down in peace and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe" (Psalm 4:7-8 NLT).
We live in a society where people are constantly searching for that which will make them happy.  More often than not they are searching in the material world for that good job, new house, fancy car, powerful boat, etc. -- that will make their life complete and fulfilled.  The advertising media seems to have all the answers for finding happiness.
The Dictionary defines Joy as:  "The emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying."  What is it in your life that gives you the greatest joy?  Is it your comfortable house, money in the bank, prestige, power over others, social status?  Before you answer, let's think together about another definition of "joy" -- joy of a different kind. 
The joy that God wants to give you is the inward sense of peace, contentment, and well-being that comes from your relationship with God as you trust Him in every aspect of your life.  The other "worldly joy" might be better called "happiness"  that results from living in pleasant and comfortable circumstances.  In other words, the kind of joy the psalmist is talking about is God-given and of a different kind, not dependent on abundance, success, or pleasure.   
Inward joy remains firm and steady as long as we trust God, but human-generated happiness is unpredictable.  It goes and comes and is dependent upon one's circumstances in life.  God-given inward joy of a different kind will help you defeat worry, discouragement, and anxiety, while temporary happiness merely masks or covers up these desperate feelings.  Happiness is like putting a Band-Aid over a wound.  The wound is still there, but is hidden.  Supernatural joy heals the wound from the inside out.  Now, which would you prefer  -- lasting inward joy or fleeting happiness?
As a Christian, your answer should be a no-brainer.  It should be the joy that only God can give.  "Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight"  (Psalm 43:4 NIV).  Jesus talks about this kind of joy in His teachings to His disciples.  "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. . . I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete"  (John 15:9,11 NIV).  If Jesus is your Savior and Lord of your life, He wants you to experience the fullness of joy that only He can give as you trust and follow Him each day of your life.

Love, Jerry & Dotse  

Monday, February 17, 2014

Choices Have Consequences

Chuckle:  A minister asked a group of children why they loved God.  After several answers, one little boy said, "Sir. I guess it just runs in our family."
Quote:  “God’s love for us is constant and will not diminish, but he cannot rescue us from the painful results caused by wrong choices.  --Marvin J. Ashton
    "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life"  (Galatians 6:7 NIV).
I remember an old 1950's television show called "Truth or Consequences." Contestants were asked silly trick questions which they almost never  answered correctly.  The host then told them that since they had failed to tell the truth, they would have to pay the consequences.  The consequences were often embarrassing and humiliating -- all in good fun of course.
Unfortunately, there is nothing humorous about making bad choices in life which can have serious consequences.  It is a natural law to reap what one sows, and it is true in all areas of life.  In the same way that a crop is harvested from a seed placed in the ground, every choice you make in life will reap its consequences.  If you do not know Christ as Savior, each time you make a choice not to accept Him, you risk eternal consequences. ". . . . how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?" (Hebrews 2:3 NIV).

If you are a Christian, you will want to make choices that please God and bless others.  However, sometimes we will make wrong choices resulting in sin.  When this happens we must quickly confess our sins to God with an attitude of genuine repentance and receive forgiveness and cleansing (I John 1:9). But God's forgiveness does not always mean the consequences of our actions are removed.

I'm reminded of King David who committed the sins of adultery and murder.  God forgave him and used him mightily, but the consequences of David's choices (sins) brought much pain and disappointment to him and his family throughout his life.  As a genuine born again Christian, you will never lose your salvation, but your bad choices can certainly bring pain to you and others close to you.  Also, wrong choices in service to your Lord can result in your missing out on the joy and other rewards God wants to give you.  "If any man's work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire" (I Corinthians 3:15 NIV).

Right choices will bring God's blessings and rewards.  When we trust Christ as Lord and Savior, we have God's promise of eternal life and the best possible life here on earth. If we make the right choices as Christians, God will reward us.  If not, we forfeit those rewards. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad" (2 Corinthians 5:10 NIV).

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Friday, February 14, 2014

Choices Reveal Character

Chuckle:  A preacher was writing a sermon and his son asked, "Daddy, does the Lord tell you what to say?" "Of course He does!" "Then why do you keep scratching some of it out?"

Good Quote:   “By making choices consistent with eternal truth you will develop righteous character.    --Richard G. Scott


    "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much" (Luke 16:10 NIV).  

Every day, God allows each Christian to be tested with a series of small choices.  "Little things mean a lot."  You might say,"I would never rob a bank or swindle someone out of their possessions.  However, I might  choose to cheat a little on my income tax -- or be less than completely honest in a business deal.  After all, doesn't everyone operate that way?"
Some seem to think it's OK to be less than honest in relatively insignificant matters -- as long as we are honest in the major transactions of life.   What does this attitude say about our character?  What are we teaching our children and grandchildren about  character?  What does God think of us when we compromise our integrity?  Jesus teaches us the importance of making good choices even in what we perceive as the most minor of situations.

In our passage, Jesus teaches us that our character will determine our assignments from God.  In a parable, Jesus said:  "Well done, my good servant! . . . because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities" (Luke 19:17 NIV).  If you feel your place of service in your church is not as important to God as someone else's, perhaps you will want to think again.  There is no insignificant ministry to others in Jesus' name.  Jesus made this point like this: "I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward" (Mark 9:41 NIV). 

Right choices and faithfulness in the small tasks, develops Christian character and prepares you for even greater responsibilities.  God is more interested in your availability and faithfulness than he is with your opinion of the relative importance of what he has asked you to do.  He wants us to maintain our integrity at all times and make godly decisions in all matters, whether great or small.   

My prayer is that each of us will take another look at how we make daily choices and decisions in light of these passages of Scripture.  The daily choices we make reveal our true character.  Someone has said, "Your ideal is what you wish you were.  Your reputation is what people say you are.  Your character is what you are."    

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Choices Are Important

Chuckle:  (church bulletin blooper) "The pastor will preach his farewell message, after which the choir will sing, 'Break Forth Into Joy.'"
Quote:   "You can judge a man pretty well by whether -- if given a choice -- he would ask for a lighter burden or a stronger back."  --Unknown source
"    . . . choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve . . . . But as for me and my household, we will (choose to) serve the Lord" (Joshua 24:15 NIV).
Each day, we are faced with a series of choices that determine the course of our lives and often the lives of others.  Joshua made his choice to serve the Lord.  This is a basic choice each of us must make.  However, every day we make hundreds of lesser choices that not only impact our lives but the lives of those around us.  An eternal perspective on life's choices is to know how to choose wisely. 
Are your choices based on selfish motives?  "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others" (Philippians 2:3-4 NIV).  Who do you think about when it comes to making choices/decisions?  Is it "what's in it for me?"  "Will this benefit me?"  "How will this affect me?"  Are you always looking out for old number one?  The above passage tells us that the interests of others should be more important to us than our own when we make choices.

Are your choices based on material things?  "Let your character be free from the love of money. . ." (Hebrews 13:5 NIV).  "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many griefs" (I Timothy 6:10 NIV).  This passage is often misinterpreted.  It is not money or possessions that are the problem -- it is our infatuation with them.  It is our all-consuming preoccupation with acquiring money and possessions that grieves our Lord.  They can become the most important and treasured things in life to us.  God's Word encourages hard work and good management.  Having possessions, or not, is not the issue; it's our attitudes toward them, and how we use them.

Are your choices based on spiritual compromise?  "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted (or stained) by the world"  (James 1:27 NIV).  As we make choices in life, they should be from a different motivation.  You've probably seen the letters WWJD (what would Jesus do).  These letters remind us to make decisions from an eternal spiritual perspective, no matter how great or small these decisions might be.  To make choices that are pleasing to our Lord and benefit others should be our goal.

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, February 10, 2014

Sins Of The Heart

Chuckle:  Father to teenage daughter:  "Did I hear the clock strike two as you came in last night?"  Daughter: "Oh, it started to strike eleven, but I stopped it so that it wouldn't wake you up."
Consider this Quote:  "The mind sins, not the body.  If there is no intention, there is no blame." --Livy
    "If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened" (Psalm 16:18 NIV).  "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he" (Proverbs 23:7 KJV).   
Let's begin by reviewing a couple definitions.  When Scripture uses the word "heart," we know it is not speaking about the physical organ beating in our chests.  No, it is referring to the very center of our being, and includes our thoughts (mind), emotions, passions, appetites, morals, will, spirit.  Our heart is the totality of our spiritual being -- who we are deep down inside.
Next, a literal translation of the word "sin" means to miss the mark, or deviate from a goal or standard that God has set for us in His Word -- to sin is to "fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).  We often think of sin as describing actions that are in violation of God's moral laws -- the things we do or fail to do -- our ungodly actions.  But there is more to the word "sin" than just our actions.  Any concept of sin that does not emphasize the contradiction of God's will is incomplete.  In its simplest terms, sin is rebellion against God.
Now, let's consider this question: If you harbor ungodly thoughts, but those thoughts never come to fruition by being acted upon, have you really sinned?  The answer is an emphatic "Yes."  Since sin is most often associated with our actions, I think we do not focus enough attention on the seriousness of our sinful thoughts -- sins of the heart.  These could include lust, envy, anger, hate, greed, etc.  If we aren't on guard, our thoughts can become polluted with filthy words or images which can take root in our hearts.  The longer we allow such pollution to dwell in our hearts and minds, the more likely it becomes that we will act upon those thoughts, and grow further and further away from God.    
So, when we speak of "sins of the heart,"  we are referring to our sinful thoughts and desires, but not necessarily our actions.  Sins of the heart are very serious in the eyes of God.  Perhaps the best illustration of this truth comes from Jesus Himself.  ". . . anyone who even looks at a woman with lust in his eye has already committed adultery with her in his heart (mind)" (Matthew 5:28 NLT).  
Keeping our thoughts pure and holy requires a prayerful spirit and a special love relationship with our Lord.  If we find ourselves entertaining sinful thoughts, whether we act upon those thoughts or not, we should immediately confess those sins and ask God to forgive us, purify our minds and heart, and cleanse us of all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9).  If left unchecked, sinful thoughts and desires can eventually lead to sinful actions, destroy our fellowship with our Lord, and turn people away from Him.  "Search me, O God, and know my heart" (Psalm 139:23a NIV).  "Create in me a pure heart, O God" (Psalm 51:10a NIV). 

Love, Jerry & Dotse   

Monday, February 3, 2014

Grumbling or Gratitude

Chuckle:  After a service, a woman shook the pastor's hand and said, "I don't think I'll come back.  Every time I come, you sing either 'He Arose' or 'Silent Night.'"
Good Quote:  "Grumbling and gratitude are, for the child of God, in conflict." --Billy Graham
    "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:12-13 NIV).
In his book, "Storm Warning," Billy Graham makes this statement: "Be grateful and you won't grumble -- grumble and you won't be grateful."  These words caused me to think about their implications for Christian living.  I have found that often many of us Christians allow our appreciation for what God has done for us to diminish and, instead, we concentrate on what we don't have and what He hasn't done for us.  This attitude is not new to God's people. 
You will remember how God rescued the Israelite slaves from bondage in Egypt and began to lead them toward the Promised Land.  Initially, they were excited about their relationship to God and deeply grateful for His goodness and favor He had shown them.  However, as they trekked across the desert, it wasn't long until they forgot what God had done for them and began to grumble and complain.  Their hearts were no longer filled with gratitude because they no longer had a passion for God.  They were no longer grateful.  How quickly we can forget God's goodness.
Perhaps you have allowed difficulties in your life to cause you to forget what God has done for you.  Perhaps you have forgotten His great love shown when you received His salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.  Maybe His indwelling Holy Spirit has become a ho-hum reality which you take for granted.  You may be grumbling because you have less of this worlds possessions than someone else or you're experiencing a rough patch in life.  Instead of feeling close to God and grateful for His love, grace, and mercies, you may feel like grumbling.
Like the apostle Paul expressed in our text, God wants us to be content with our station in life.  But more than that, He wants us to walk so close to Him that we will understand what He is trying to teach us by not giving us everything we want when we want it.  He wants us to have a passion for Him that results in our knowing, trusting, and obeying Him.  However, if our passion for Him is allowed to cool, we will begin grumbling about everything.  Like Paul, you should know God wants to give you the strength to do everything He wants you to do.  Let's praise Him with gratitude and avoid grumbling.

Love, Jerry & Dotse